Williams Team Principal James Vowles is expecting the Las Vegas Grand Prix to be one of the team’s ‘best opportunities’ to maximise a points haul and defend seventh in the Constructors’ standings from the closing AlphaTauri.
The Sao Paulo Grand Prix brought an end to Williams’ run of consecutive points finishes as Alex Albon crashed out of Sunday’s Grand Prix at the opening turn, and Logan Sargeant had to settle for 11th in a high attrition event.
Williams’ inability to get on top of the conditions in Interlagos allowed for AlphaTauri to again narrow the gap to seventh in the Constructors’ Standings which now sits at seven points.
Despite sizeable damage to Albon’s FW45 in his opening lap shunt, both Williams drivers will use the ‘advanced sepc’ FW45 in Las Vegas, a circuit that should pair well with the car’s affinity for top-end speeds.
“I’m pleased to confirm that in Brazil both cars were on the same specification and for Las Vegas as well, both cars will be on the same specification,” said Vowles in his debrief for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
“We’ve been working towards that as we get towards the end of the year and as we get towards tracks that I think will suit the package more so than the beginning of the year. The crash definitely hurt the amount of quantities we have, but we had already taken into account some level of attrition. So both [drivers] will still be on that advanced spec.
“I’ve personally been looking forward to Las Vegas for a number of reasons,” Vowles said in anticipation for next weekend’s race.
“First and foremost, I think it’s going to be a spectacle and a half of an event, but second because I think there are elements of it that will very much suit our car.
“Positives are, it’s a track where if you had to pick where you were on efficiency of the car, rear wing level if you like, it’s close to Monza, maybe just about Spa, than it is to all of the other ones. In other words, in a remit where we know we have tended to perform well and where the strengths of the car lie.”
Vowles also cited that the single digit ambient temperatures expected during the Las Vegas night race will also serve as a boost in Williams’ quest for points.
The Williams boss had admitted that his team’s struggles in Brazil were largely down to temperatures being too high for the FW45, resulting in poor overall balance due to high tyre temperatures caused by excessive sliding.
“However, it’s still going to be a brand new surface, a brand new and very slippery surface. You saw in Qatar just how much that changed across the weekend in terms of both lap times, but [also] how the tyres were behaving,” Vowles warned.
“That creates opportunity, but it creates risk at the same time. I think we may see some issues on those very soft compounds certainly right at the beginning of the race. Maybe it will improve as the race weekend goes on, but that may create risk or reward.
“I think that certainly compared to the last few events, it presents one of our best opportunities of making sure we maximise our points score and keep that gap growing relative to AlphaTauri in the championship.”
AlphaTauri’s upturn in performance can be credited to the successful integration of Red Bull-style upgrades that began appearing in Singapore.
With the Faenza-based team on an upwards trajectory, Williams are at a real risk of slipping down the championship order in the final two races of the season.
“We stopped work on this year’s car many, many months ago,” Vowles said of the risk from AlphaTauri. “That may mean that we are putting seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship at risk. And even so, I’m very happy with the decision we made.
“Our journey isn’t one about whether we finish seventh or eighth in 2023. It’s one of how do we move this team back to the front.
“What you’re trying to balance in tandem is updates in the background, systems and structures, next year’s car, the 2026 car. And simply, you can’t put all those into the same sphere and hope you come out with success in all of them.
“We want to make a step forward in ‘24. We want to make a step forward in ‘25 and ‘26. And that will take time to put in place properly. You have to go through transformation.
“I don’t want to finish eighth in this championship and we will fight with everything we have until the checkered flag falls in Abu Dhabi to maintain this seventh place.
“But I’m also conscious that we’re asking a race team and drivers to do this with one hand behind their back. That’s okay. I’m still confident that the step on what we’re doing and the decisions we’ve made will still lead to long-term success over short-term game.”